Before they were Valkyries
In the fall of 2010, Football Saskatchewan held a women’s tackle football clinic in Saskatoon to gauge the interest of women for the sport. Roughly 45 women ranging in ages and athletic backgrounds from Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert and the surrounding areas came out to give it a shot. Seeing the interest at the camp, Football Saskatchewan backed the start of two 12-player women’s tackle football teams, one in Regina and the other in Saskatoon.
Becoming the Valkyries
While the players of the yet-to-be-named Saskatoon team soon began training indoors in local high schools, the team’s executive and board started getting things organized on the back end. First up: a team name. To help spread the word on Saskatoon’s newest football team, the public was asked to submit suggestions for team names. The possibilities ranged from the Praying Mantis’ to the Saskatoon Berries, the Roughriderettes and more. Some were based off of names for previous Saskatoon women’s teams, while others were born out of creativity. Eventually, the list went to players and team staff to vote on their favourite and the Valkyries name won.
Competition within the Western Women’s Canadian Football League
The Valkyries didn’t know what to expect when they entered their first WWCFL season in 2011. At that point, the league was a combination of teams who had been playing women’s tackle football for a number of years, including the Calgary Rage, Manitoba Fearless and Edmonton Storm, as well as new teams like the Regina Riot and the Valkyries.
Under head coach Jeff Yausie, the Valkyries played their first game against provincial rivals, the Riot, at Old Mosaic Stadium on May 22, winning by a margin of 56-6. That victory would be the first of an undefeated season for the Valkyries enroute to claiming their first WWCFL championship with a 56-6 win over the Edmonton Storm.
The Valkyries followed up their inaugural 7-0 season with another undefeated campaign in 2012. In the WWCFL championship game, which was hosted in Saskatoon at Griffiths Stadium, the Valkyries defeated the Lethbridge Steel 64-21.
That year also saw the first women’s national football championship held in Quebec. Players from the Valkyries and the Riot combined to create the first Saskatchewan women’s tackle football team, which went on to finish second at the tournament.
After back-to-back perfect seasons in their first two years, the Valkyries undefeated streak came to an end in 2013 as they lost their first game of that season and in program history to the Regina Riot 15-7. The Valkyries won their next two games against the Winnipeg Wolfpack and Manitoba Fearless and finished the regular season off with a 48-45 victory against Regina. However, the Riot won the point differential between the two teams that year and earned the opportunity to host the WWCFL Prairie Conference Championship. This led to the Valkyries playing a playoff game on the road for the first time (excluding WWCFL finals).
Everything came together just right in the Valkyries in the game as they defeated the Riot 55-27 to move on to the WWCFL final. In the final, it was another Lethbridge versus Saskatoon showdown, with the Valkyries once again coming out on top 27-13 to claim their third WWCFL championship.
A return to an undefeated season marked the Valkyries’ 2014 campaign. The Valkyries capped off the perfect season with a victory over the Lethbridge Steel in the WWCFL final for a third season in a row with a 53-0 win. Once again, the Valkyries were able to hoist the trophy in front of a hometown crowd at Griffiths Stadium.
Coming into the 2015 season, the Valkyries were hoping to capture their fifth straight WWCFL championship in as many years. The team finished the regular with a 3-1 record, losing their first home game in franchise history to the Regina Riot 49-9, after the Valkyries previously beat the Riot on their own turf 28-19 earlier in the season. The point differential between their two games gave the Riot home-field advantage in the Prairie Conference final and they capitalized, defeating the Valkyries 31-29 on a last-minute field goal.
The Valkyries were keen to reclaim the WWCFL title in 2016 and started the season prepared to do so. Saskatoon won their first three games, but stumbled slightly in the final regular season game, once again losing to the Riot. The two teams met once again in the Conference Championship, this time with Saskatoon competing on their home turf and winning 29-14 to earn a return ticket to the WWCFL championships.
The 2016 WWCFL final was a familiar setting, opponent and result for the Valkyries, as they traveled to Lethbridge for a meeting with the Edmonton Storm, who they defeated 81-6 to claim their fifth league title.
Once again, in 2016, following the conclusion of the WWCFL season, the Valkyries and the Riot combined for Team Saskatchewan and the women’s national tournament. This time Saskatchewan came out on top, defeating Team Alberta, Atlantic and Quebec along the way.
The 2017 season marked a change for the Saskatoon Valkyries coaching staff. In November of 2016, Pat Barry was officially announced as the Valkyries new head coach, taking over from Jeff Yausie who had led the team since 2011. On the field, the Valkyries went 3-1 in the regular season and were again forced to travel to Regina for the conference championship, which they lost 34-24 to the Riot.
As 2017 was also another IFAF Women’s World Championship year, the WWCFL elected to include a third-place game for the first time. This was due to the season having to be cut short to allow players on the Canadian roster to finish off the WWCFL season. This led to the Valkyries facing off and defeating the Edmonton Storm 44-20 in Saskatoon, where the WWCFL final was also held.
The Valkyries had a new experience in 2018, unfortunately, it wasn’t a great one. For the first time in eight seasons, the Valkyries ended the regular season with a 2-2 record, losing to the Riot both at home and on the road. In playoffs, the Valkyries defeated the Manitoba Fearless 16-13 in league quarterfinals and then, due a change in the league playoff structure, defeated the host Calgary Rage 30-6 in the WWCFL Cross-Conference Semifinals to become the Western Conference Champions. In the WWCFL final, the Valkyries faced the Riot, but came up short, losing 14-10.
The 2019 season was a mixed bag for the Valkyries, with incredible highs and terrible lows. The team excelled in their games that year, claiming an undefeated season for the first time since 2015 and topped it off with a 25-3 victory over the Riot in the WWCFL final. That season also saw the Valkyries play two exhibition games, one in Las Vegas against the Sin City Trojans before the start of their 2019 campaign and one in Saskatoon against the visiting Montreal Blitz following the championship game. The Valkyries won both of those matchups, bringing their season record to 9-0.
However, while the Valkyries won every game they played that year, they also suffered a great loss. The night before the Valkyries final regular season game in Regina, Coach Justin Filteau was flying from Medicine Hat to his hometown of Moose Jaw. From there he planned to drive and meet the team ahead of the game. Unfortunately, the plane he was riding in crashed, killing him as well as the other two people on board. The Valkyries dedicated the success of their 2019 season to him.
The 2020 WWCFL season was cancelled on March 30, 2020 as a result of COVID-19.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shelved plans for a full WWCFL season in 2021, however, the Valkyries and the Riot were able to organize a mini season with a three-game series. The Valkyries swept the series, winning 34-0, 42-7 and 32-7.
The 2022 season saw the Valkyries go undefeated, finishing 7-0 on the season. In the WWCFL final the Valkyries faced the Manitoba Fearless, marking the first ever league final appearance for the Fearless team. The Valkyries hosted the championship game in Saskatoon at SMF Field and came out on top, winning 36-6.
Valkyries and Team Canada:
The second IFAF Women’s World Tackle Football Championship was held in Finland. The Canadian team finished second behind the United States. On the Canadian roster were 10 Valkyries players, four coaches and once staff member.
Players: Jessie Buydens (DL) Julie David (RB) Marci Kiselyk (REC) Jaime Lammerding (DL) Darla Lee-Walde (DB)
Julie Paetsch (RB) Carisa Polischuk (DB) Beth Thompson (OL) Beth Thomson (LB) Kendra Wilson (OL)
Coaches: Jeff Yausie (Head Coach) Chris Hengen-Braun (OL Coach) Dan Houle (RB Coach) Chad Palmer (REC Coach)
Staff: Michelle Duchene (Trainer)
Eight players for the Valkyries traded in their green-and-white jersey for red and white to take part in the IFAF Women’s World Championship in July in Langley, B.C. They were joined by four members of the Valkyries coaching staff. Team Canada once again finished in second, losing to the United States in the final.
Players: Shaylyn De Jong (DB) Carly Dyck (K/REC) Julene Friesen (RB) Alyssa Funk (OL) Jaime Lammerding (OL) Samantha Matheson (RB) Rienna Rueve (DB Reserve) Beth Thomson (LB)
Coaches: Jeff Yausie (Head Coach) Cody Halseth (DB Coach) Marci Halseth [nee Kiselyk] (REC Coach) Chris Hengen-Braun (OL Coach)
The IFAF Women's World Championship was hosted in Vantaa, Finland from July 30th - August 7th 2022. This tournament was intended to take place in 2021, but was pushed back a year because of travel concerns raised by COVID-19. The Valkyries had 15 representatives at the tournament - 11 players and 4 coaches. Team Canada finished in fourth place, losing to Finland in the bronze medal game.
Players: Emmarae Dale (LB) Lauren Ferguson (OL) Alyssa Funk (OL) Haley Girolami (DB) Danaye Holynski (DL) Arden Kliewer (DL) Betsy Mawdsley (OL) Richelle Obed (REC) Reed Thorstad (QB) Ashley Vicklund (OL) Sarah Wright (RB)
Coaches: Pat Barry (LB Coach) Cody Halseth (Defensive Coordinator) Marci Halseth (Offensive Coordinator) Beth Thompson (DL Coach)